Golgusa Temple

One day, my friends and I went on the Gyeongju city tour. We opted for the East Sea tour, which starts off at Golgusa Temple.

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Golgusa Temple

Apparently, Golgulsa is the only temple cave in Korea. It sits snugly against Mt. Hamwol, with a smiling Buddha sculpture resting at the top.

The walk up to the temple isn’t suitable for people who hate heights. I, on the other hand, have always lacked a sense of self-preservation, and so I eagerly zig-zagged my way up to the temple. I only stopped to briefly take in the various alcoves–full of smaller buddhas–that were scattered along the path.

It was a rainy day when we were there, too, which added the extra thrill of slippery rock platforms to the mix. The safety rails and ropes were wonderful!

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Once at the top, all I could do was stare.

As far as tours go, this one had an impressive first stop.

Thanks for reading,

Emme

Bamboo

There are days when I think that I’m completely settled into my life here in Korea and that nothing will thrill me anymore.

And then there are days when I see something as ordinary as bamboo and get all excited again because there is no bamboo where I come from. That’s so wild. 

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What is it about bamboo that sparks the desire to explore? Whenever I see bamboo, I always have to go inside of it and look around.

I’m going to Kyoto, Japan in July just to see the bamboo forest there. I can’t wait to be thrilled by it!

Thanks for reading,

Emme

Tumuli Park (Daereungwon Tomb Complex)

The Tumuli Park in Gyeongju, South Korea looks like one large Windows XP screensaver.

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See?

A tumulus (plural tumuli) is an artificial mound of earth raised over a grave. Tumuli are also known as barrows or burial mounds.

The tumuli in Gyeongju are quite large. They do a great job of making you feel really small.

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Just look at how tiny we look by comparison

Cheonmachong Tomb, which is normally open to the public, is currently closed for maintenance. The park is worth seeing all on its own, though.

I enjoyed walking between the mounds and just taking in the quiet atmosphere.

There were many types of trees bumping elbows (branches?) in this one space, too.

Thanks for reading,

Emme

Take a Walk

I love living in a city where I don’t need a car to get around. Walking gives me time to slow down and take everything in properly.

For example, I saw this path while randomly wandering around dujeongdong.

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That path led to this. Instead of walking in the road, I walked a good ten blocks through the grass and trees.

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Later on, I went on a hour-long walk to the Shinsegae area. I was pouring sweat by the time I arrived, so this shady area was a delight.

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Hooray for walking and warm weather!

Thanks for reading,

Emme

Greenery

I’ve been complaining for weeks about the lack of parks in my neighborhood….but I feel downright sheepish about that now. The parks were there all along; I just didn’t know where to look.

It certainly helps that spring’s arrived. Gives me motivation to go outside and poke around.

Thanks to a friend of mine, I now know that a nearby hill/mountain is full of hiking trails. (And by hill/mountain, I mean that it rides that line between being too small to be a mountain and too big to be a hill. Such is the way…)

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Like I said, I’m feeling sheepish. But pretty relieved, too.

Thanks for reading,

Emme

 

Walnut Cookies

Walnut cookies (호두과자) originated in Cheonan, South Korea. They’re walnut-shaped and hefty enough to rest solidly in the palm of your hand, thanks to the thick red bean paste inside of each of them.

I am a sucker for anything sugary and these cookies are no exception to that rule. Recently I bought a bag of them from a vendor at Cheonan Station and then proceeded to eat the entire lot on my own in one sitting.

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I’ve seen them being sold everywhere here (i.e. Korea), particularly in Seoul and Cheonan. It’s always really hard to resist them. The smell of them alone sends me straight into a primal state of being where the thought of food, food, food takes over everything else in my brain.

Which is why I rarely resist eating them. *shrugs*

If you come visit, do yourself a favor and try one. It goes without saying that they are delicious.

I’m probably going to take advantage of my local privilege and buy another bag this morning, actually.

Thanks for reading,

Emme

 

Changgyeonggung Palace (again!)

I know that I wrote about Changgyeonggung Palace last time, but, really, the area’s big enough that I could write several more posts about it and still not cover everything.

Besides, it’s spring now! We’re finally — FINALLY — seeing some flowers.

Last time I was at this palace, the greenhouse was actually sealed off to the public (for renovation work). This time, it was wide open.

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Last time there was a giant fence here! This is much better.

It was a cool, overcast day, so the warmth of the greenhouse felt immensely welcoming.

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Happy spring, everyone!

Thanks for reading,

Emme

Changgyeonggung Palace

My hostel was in Myeongnyun, so my first stop was Changgyeonggung Palace.

After walking through Honghwamun Gate (the main gate), though, I instantly got distracted by all of the nature on my right. I started heading north, and before too long, I was at Chundangji Pond. It was once a rice field for the king who lived here, but during the Japanese occupation, it was turned into a pond.

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Chundangji Pond

As I continued heading north, I stumbled upon a small garden, a pagoda, and a greenhouse. The contrast between the pagoda — up on a hill, sitting under the shade of many, many trees — and the greenhouse — out in the open, shining almost too brightly under a hot sun — was striking.

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Finally remembering my original objective, I headed back to check out the palace properly. Namsan Tower was faintly visible in the distance all the while.

It’s incredibly easy to spend your entire morning here strolling around and peeking into numerous buildings that are probably older than your entire home country. That’s how I spend my morning, anyway…

Binyangmun Gate was my last stop before heading on to Changdeokgung Palace. This gate was the door connecting the king’s public and private quarters. Like many gates at these palaces, this one wasn’t used by servants; they entered using doors off to the sides.

At the time of my visit, I had no idea that’s what this gate was, but something about it did make me hesitate before crossing that threshold. Architecture can be such an odd thing sometimes.

Thanks for reading,

Emme

Raccoon Cafe

Upon entering a raccoon cafe, you’ll be asked to swap your shoes for sandals. There’ll also be a locker for your other items (i.e. backpack, in my case).

After paying the cover fee, you’ll be let inside the main area. This fee may or may not include a drink (standard cafe fare — I got a mocha).

My focus was on the raccoons, but there were also a few dogs running around this particular cafe. The owners would occasionally give us grapes and bits of jerky to attract all of the animals to our table.

At one point, a wild animal was straight-up using my head as a perch.

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Photo credit: Annie Leonard

Both of us were pretty cool with it. Ya gotta get those grapes somehow!

Thanks for reading,

Emme

A Punny Sculpture

In Seoul, about an hour’s walk south of Itaewon, is a little park. Its only neighbors are a U.S. army base (which is, of course, surrounded by high walls) and a desolate overpass. And, since it’s still winter here, everything is still brown and dead.

Thanks to all of this, the sculptures were the only things that were noteworthy about this park. One sculpture in particular really stuck with me.

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“Hand made in Korea.”

…Well played, Korea, well played.

 

Thanks for reading,

Emme